Released on October 18, 2022.
What do we know about how the public views our courts? We know that the public’s trust and confidence in courts has been slipping over the years. The 2021 National Center for State Courts State of the State Courts survey found that public trust in the courts along other institutions has been declining for some time. In that survey 64% of respondents said they had either a great deal of confidence or some confidence in their state courts. But that is down from a 2018 high of 76%.
That same survey asked, “How much do you agree with the phrase that the state courts provide equal justice to all?” For the first time, state courts were slightly ‘under water.’ 46% said the phrase described the state courts well or very well, while 47% disagreed. In addition, this year, public confidence in The U.S. Supreme Court (symbolically the paragon of our court system), sank to 25%, down 31 points from its 1988 high. That year 56% had confidence in the Supreme Court.
We’ve asked five individuals, both judges and court administrators, how do their friends and neighbors view the courts and why. We asked them about people they know; people who do not work in the courts.
What are we looking to find out?
- Has trust and confidence in the courts truly been decreasing?
- Do people still rely on the fundamental fairness and impartiality of the courts?
- If trust and confidence is decreasing what are the reasons?
Stacy Worby, State Jury Coordinator for the Alaska Court System
- The Honorable Yvette Alexander, Judge with the City Court in Baton Rouge, Louisiana
- The Honorable Ed Spillane, Judge with the Municipal Court in College Station, Texas
- Rick Pierce, Judicial Programs Administrator for the Administrative Office of Pennsylvania Courts
- Kent Pankey, Senior Planner for the Supreme Court of Virginia
- Sarah Brown-Clark, elected Clerk of Court for the Municipal Court in Youngstown, Ohio
Click here to listen to the podcast. The audio version is 29 minutes 45 seconds long and the video is 34 minutes 10 seconds long.
Leave a question or comment about the episode at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Stacy Worby serves as the State Jury Coordinator for the Alaska Court System. In that capacity she is responsible for the coordination and operation of the centralized processes for the court’s jury management systems. Additionally, she provides jury procedure training and guidance for personnel in 40 court locations statewide.
Judge Yvette Alexander
Judge Alexander earned a B.A. in Political Science from Grambling State University and earned a J.D. from the LSU Law Center in 1979. After law school, she worked as counsel for the Louisiana State Legislature, Louisiana State Senate, East Baton Rouge Parish Public Defender’s Office and was an Assistant Attorney General for the Louisiana Attorney General’s Office. From 1988–1995, she served as Chief Legal Counsel for Secretary of State, Fox McKeithen and served as an Ex-Officio Member of both the Louisiana State Bond Commission and the Louisiana School Employees Retirement System, before being elected to Division “D” of City Court in 1995.
She also participates in the Louisiana Lupus Foundation, YMCA, Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, NAACP and Dean Henry G. McMahon American Inn of Court. She is a President of the LA Judicial Council of the National Bar Association. She presently serves as, Financial Secretary for the Judicial Council of the National Bar Association.
Judge Edward J. Spillane
Edward J. Spillane is the Presiding Municipal Judge for the City of College Station, Texas. He has served in this position since May 2002. Prior to this, he served as an Assistant District Attorney for Brazos County for eight years and as an associate for the law firm Fulbright & Jaworski for two years.
Judge Spillane received his undergraduate degree from Harvard University, and his law degree from the University of Chicago.
He is past President of the Texas Municipal Courts Association (TMCA); the 1st VP on the TMCA’s Board; was a member of the State Commission on Judicial Conduct representing all Texas Municipal Courts; is a member of the Texas Judicial Council; a member of the National Task Force on Fines, Fees, and Bail Practices; and a board member of the Misdemeanor Justice Project of the John Jay School of Criminal Justice in New York.
Judge Spillane has written articles in numerous publications, including The Washington Post, Texas Town and City, and the University of Chicago magazine. His articles have focused on the plight of indigent defendants and also the benefits of mindfulness in the courtroom.
He has taught on behalf of the Texas Municipal Courts Education Center and several national organizations.
Rick Pierce, Judicial Programs Administrator of the Judicial District Operations and Programs Department, has served in the field of court administration for the past twenty-nine years. Prior to his appointment at the Administrative Office of Pennsylvania Courts, Pierce was the district court administrator for Cumberland County. Prior to his 4 ½ year tenure as court administrator, Pierce was the assistant administrator for the 9th judicial district from 1988-1997.
As judicial programs administrator, he is responsible for implementation of programs and education in court administration at the general and limited jurisdiction court levels.
Pierce served as the President for the Mid-Atlantic Association for Court Management for 2005-2006. Previously he has served on the MAACM advisory board from 1997-2005.
A graduate from Washington and Lee University, Pierce received his Masters in Public Administration from Shippensburg University in 1995. He has been an active member of the Pennsylvania Association of Court Management, (PACM) since its inception in 1989. He has served as a board member from 1994-2001, culminating in his presidency in 2000-2001.
Kent Pankey is the senior planner in the Department of Judicial Planning, Office of the Executive Secretary, Supreme Court of Virginia (Virginia’s AOC), where he has worked since 2005. His current duties relate primarily to comprehensive projects involving strategic planning and performance measurement and management. He also staffs commissions and study groups, writes and edits reports and newsletters, and supports educational and technical assistance programs.
Admitted to the Virginia State Bar in 1988, Kent began his career at the National Center for State Courts (NCSC) where he held a variety of positions including staff attorney, departmental director, senior analyst, and head of the institutional review board. He advised judges, court administrators, legislative officials, media representatives. and others on a wide range of issues related to courts and their operation. Kent staffed or directed federally-funded, national-scope research projects on subjects including alternative dispute resolution, court coordination of family cases, the management of budget cutbacks, habeas corpus in state and federal courts, and futures studies and strategic planning in state courts. He was a contributing writer and for several years the managing editor for the annual Report on Trends in the State Courts and also the director of the Survey of Judicial Salaries.
Kent received a B.A. in Political Science from Hampden-Sydney College and a J.D. from the College of William and Mary. He is an ICM Fellow (Class of 1999) and a certified ICM instructor for the courses Accountability and Court Performance, Executive Decision Making, Leadership, Modern Court Governance, and Visioning and Strategic Planning. He has been a member of NACM since 1994 and has been an active member of the Education, Communication, and Membership Committees. Recently, he has been an editor for NACM’s new Media Guide and has authored or coauthored several articles for The Court Manager.
Sarah Brown-Clark is a 1971 cum laude graduate of Ohio University with a B.S. degree in English; she also earned her M.A. degree in English from Ohio University in 1972 and earned hours towards a Ph.D. in English from Kent State University. Currently Ms. Brown-Clark is the Clerk of the Youngstown Municipal Court, a position to which she was elected in November 1999. She is retired from Youngstown State University where she was an Associate Professor of English since 1972 and currently has Faculty Emeritus status. Ms. Brown-Clark is the mother of three children – twins: Lester and Lesli and Stephani and the grandmother of six, including a second-generation set of twins. Sarah Brown-Clark believes in community activism and believes that it is the responsibility of professionals to articulate the concerns of their community and to facilitate the formal and informal education of all members of the community. During her tenure at Youngstown State University where she served as the Director of the Black Studies Program for several years, she exemplified this commitment by bringing nationally known educational speakers as well as nationally known entertainers to the YSU campus, events that were free and open to the public.
She has fulfilled this personal commitment by serving on a number of boards and lecturing extensively. She served two terms on the Youngstown Board of Education from 1992-1999 and while on the board, served two consecutive terms as President. In addition, Ms. Brown-Clark is a past President of the Youngstown Chapter of Links, Incorporated and currently serves as the Central Area Parliamentarian, a division which includes (69) sixty-nine chapters in (15) states. In addition to being a past chair of the Youngstown Human Relations Commission, she is a past president of the Executive Committee of the Community Corporation, better known to some as the United Way of Youngstown and former chair of the Review Committee, which funds new programs. She previously served on several other United Way Committees and chaired the United Way Fund Distribution Committee for several years, in addition to serving as a Campaign Division Leader for the 1989, 1999 and 1991 campaigns. Currently she serves on the Board of the Youngstown Symphony Society. Ms. Brown-Clark is a member of The Links, Incorporated; Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Incorporated, Epsilon Mu Omega Chapter: Covenant Chapter #48. Order of the Easter Star and Third Baptist Church.
Sarah Brown-Clark served two terms as Chair of the Western Reserve Transit Authority and served on the following boards: YWCA, Youngstown Area Urban League, Mahoning County Mental Retardation Workshop, Woodside Receiving Hospital, Leadership Mahoning Valley, Goodwill Industries and the Mahoning County Mental Health Board. In addition to being a member of the 1986 Leadership Youngstown Program, she was also member of the 1994 Leadership Ohio Charter Class.
She was an active member of the Ohio Education Association and the local chapter of the A. Philip Randolph Institute. Ms. Brown-Clark served on the State Resolutions Commission, the District Legislative Committee and the YSU-OEA Grievance Committee. She was also elected to the National Education Association Resolutions Commission, in addition to having been elected by her peers to serve as a delegate to five National Education Association annual legislative assemblies.
For several years, Sarah Brown-Clark hosted a weekly radio program titled, “Eye Opening and Thought Provoking” which consisted of readings from African American literature. Some of you may remember her byline, “All I want to do is read to you.”
She has lectured extensively and has been the keynote speaker at local and national events as well as facilitated workshops on issues relative to the roles and responsibilities of African American females, ethnic and cultural diversity and African American history.
After her election to the office of Youngstown Municipal Clerk of Court in 1999, Sarah Brown-Clark became actively involved in court management. She was elected to a three-year term on the Board of Directors for the National Association for Court Managers in 2001. At the conclusion of her term on the Board in July 2004, she was appointed to serve on the prestigious Professional Development Committee of the organization. In addition, Ms. Brown-Clark served on the American Judges Association and the National Center for State Courts Judicial Education on Substance Abuse Committee as well as the National Center for State Courts Advisory Board for Serving Limited English Proficient Battered Women. In 2006, Ms. Brown-Clark was appointed to the Michigan State University Judicial Administration National Advisory Board. On the state level, she is a past President of the Ohio Association of Municipal Court Clerks and serves on several Supreme Court Committees, among which are the Court Personnel Education and Training Committee in the Judicial College division and the Adhoc Rights Restoration Committee.
Ms. Brown-Clark was the recipient of the Professional Certification Award from the Ohio Association of Municipal Clerks. In addition, she chairs the Education and Certification Committees.
In 2004, Ms. Brown-Clark passed the National Association of Parliamentarians exam and currently serves the as the Central Area Parliamentarian of The Links, Incorporated. The Central Area has 68 chapters in 17 states.